The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is the scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce focused on understanding the conditions of the ocean and the atmosphere. A major concern of NOAA is the growing spread of marine debris, which is generally defined as any man-made, solid material that is disposed of or abandoned into the ocean or Great Lakes.
On Aug. 29, NOAA announced 15 projects worth $2.2 million to support marine debris removal and research through the NOAA Marine Debris Program. These projects support efforts to address the pervasive global problem of marine debris that can impact wildlife, fisheries, navigational safety, human health, and the economy through its impact on tourism and other sectors.
Eleven groups received more than $1.2 million dollars to support marine debris removal projects to benefit coastal habitats, waterways, and wildlife, including migratory fish. Projects awarded through this marine debris removal grant competition work at the local, community level to remove marine debris, including derelict fishing gear and abandoned and derelict vessels. Projects will provide benefits to coastal communities, and create long-term ecological habitat improvements.
The ocean can rapidly break larger plastic marine debris into smaller pieces, called microplastics; and four groups received over $900,000 dollars to advance understanding of how microplastics in the marine environment impact commercially-important seafood species. Together, these projects will improve our understanding of the ecological risks associated with marine debris as well as the fate and transport of marine debris in nearshore, coastal environments.
These projects were selected through a rigorous and highly competitive merit review process. NOAA's Marine Debris Program received 70 proposals in 2017, requesting more than $12 million, demonstrating the widespread interest in the marine debris issue across the nation. The funded projects cover 11 states, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. The NOAA funds are being matched with non-federal contributions totaling $1.9 million.
Plastics and other marine debris, the unwanted by-product of human activity, pose a serious threat to the health of the world’s ocean. The United States is committed to addressing this global threat in close coordination with our international partners.